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Beethoven lifted off the pedestal

The Beethoven monument on Münsterplatz is undergoing extensive restoration. The reason for this is corrosion damage that was discovered during an inspection of the statue in the fall of 2020. The statue has now been lifted by crane onto a low-loader and transported to the restoration workshop.

Giacomo Zucca/Bundesstadt Bonn

It is not every day that the Beethoven statue on Münsterplatz is strapped down. The last time was in 1963, and now the time had come again: Beethoven was lifted from his pedestal. For this purpose, several straps were placed around the body. Four more were then attached to it like suspenders. Still other fixings ensured that the listed figure could be lifted as carefully as possible with the help of a crane and loaded onto a low-loader. Then it was the turn of the pedestal. A total of around 6.6 tons of weight were moved in this way: the statue weighs around 3.2 tons, and the base covering (pedestal) around 3.4 tons.  

As was shown during the inspections in the fall of 2020, corrosion has spread to those parts of the monument that are exposed to the sun. Dirt and water can thus penetrate unhindered, thus significantly increasing the risk of corrosion in the interior. This damage is hardly or not at all visible to observers of the monument, but it must be urgently repaired in order to prevent further damage.

The restoration of the Beethoven statue is being organized by the Municipal Building Management. The company Recovis was found and commissioned by means of a call for tenders. The company from Schleswig-Holstein specializes in metal restorations, especially of bronze. For the restoration work, Recovis has rented a workshop near Bonn in order to keep the transport distance for the precious cargo as short as possible.

In the workshop, the bronze components of the monument are first cleaned. The aim of the cleaning - using cotton swabs, sponges and water as well as cleaning products suitable for the material - is not to achieve an absolutely clean surface, but rather to remove layers of dirt while preserving the historic patina. This is likely to be followed by careful mechanical cleaning of as yet undissolved dirt, for example pigeon droppings. 

In addition, graffiti contamination in partial areas of the frame, the lateral allegory panels and the statue will have to be removed in several places. At overshadowed or richly relieved places of the figurative representations and the statue still strong incrustations are to be worked back after the cleanings, in order to expose the damaged and missing places and to make a monument-fair reworking of the damaged area possible. This also improves water drainage. Depending on the strength and nature of the corrosion zone, it may be necessary to thin out the crusts in the affected areas on a selective basis using a scalpel and fiberglass pencil.

The monument was last extensively restored in the 1960s, 1963-1965. Repairs from this period, so-called bronze seals or bronze plates, have come loose in some places. These are reattached and other open joints and seams are sealed. Finally, the individual parts are coated with a microcrystalline wax. A light pigmentation, i.e. coloring in some areas, is used to restore a coherent overall appearance to the surface. 

The concrete core of the base will remain in place and will also be repaired. To ensure that the site of the monument does not remain empty for the duration of the restoration, the Municipal Building Management has designed a pedestal protector with information and historical views of the statue. This will cover the three-meter-high wooden box until Beethoven's return.

The restoration of the monument is being coordinated by the Municipal Building Management (SGB). The German Foundation for Monument Protection and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia are each supporting the restoration with 15,000 euros. According to the current status, the overall measure will cost around 60,000 euros. The work is scheduled for completion in summer 2022.

History of the monument

The Beethoven Monument on Münsterplatz was unveiled on August 12, 1845 to commemorate Beethoven's 75th birthday and on the occasion of the first Beethoven Festival. The celebrations were preceded by years of commitment on the part of Bonn citizens - in particular Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt.

The design of a monument to Ludwig van Beethoven was undertaken by Ernst Julius Hähnel, a sculptor and professor at the Dresden Art Academy who was already successful in Dresden and Munich at the time. His concept was considered modern and at the same time sublime. The statue was executed by the sculptor and ore caster Jacob Daniel Burgschmiet.

On August 12, 1845, the monument was unveiled in the presence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, King Frederick William IV, Archduke Frederick of Austria and Alexander von Humboldt. Since their highnesses were given a place of honor on a balcony behind the statue (today's post office), it stood with its back to them. Alexander von Humboldt then said, "Yes, he has always been a rough fellow in his life, too." The amusement played down the faux pas somewhat.

The statue had already been restored once between 1963 and 1965. For this purpose, the statue and its pedestal were loaded with the help of a truck-mounted crane and stood for about 20 months in the Karl König art forge in Bonn before the monument was ceremoniously reinstalled on April 28, 1965. A few weeks later, in May 1965, the freshly restored monument was also a stopover for Queen Elizabeth II of England during her visit to Germany.

On November 6, 1987, the Beethoven sculpture was entered as a monument in the list of monuments of the city of Bonn.

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